The ideological gap between younger men and women is becoming a chasm

Seeing eye to eye is becoming a fading object in the rearview mirror

Photo collage of a young man and woman speaking. Behind the man, there is a far-right march photo on a bright red background.
Conservatism is rising in young men globally
(Image credit: Illustration by Julia Wytrazek / Getty Images)

There is a global gender divide that seems to be increasing yearly. Data from multiple countries around the world indicate that young women are adopting more liberal ideologies, while young men are leaning more conservative. The more extreme ideologies likely stem from a difference in media consumption between the groups. Interpersonal bonus: The growing disagreement can cause problems in relationships and, going forward, might lead to fewer opposite-sex marriages.

A widening gap

Men and women under 30 are experiencing a rapidly growing ideological divide. Globally, data shows that women are becoming more liberal in their ideology. Conversely, men are becoming more conservative. The two shifts mark a significant chasm in the groups' beliefs. "Tens of millions of people who occupy the same cities, workplaces, classrooms and even homes no longer see eye to eye," the Financial Times said. The data suggests the divide is present in the U.S., U.K., Germany, South Korea and Poland. 

In the U.S., "young women, trans, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people lean further to the left than young men," according to data from Change Research shared with Teen Vogue. One of the key triggers for the significant gap was the #MeToo movement, one of the first global movements on social media that brought a number of women's issues to the forefront. Abortion rights also became more widely contested in recent years. "Men are more likely to vote for a candidate with whom they disagree on the issue of abortion, while women, trans, nonbinary and gender-nonconforming people are more likely to say they wouldn't vote for a candidate who holds a different view on abortion than they do," Teen Vogue said.

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In addition, these shifts are "exacerbated by the fact that the proliferation of smartphones and social media mean that young men and women now increasingly inhabit separate spaces and experience separate cultures," said the Financial Times. Social media has given a platform to the far right, and the algorithms have users continuously seeing content similar to the type they engage with, reinforcing their beliefs. "Men most commonly report listening to The Joe Rogan Experience and The Ben Shapiro Show, while women favor the New York Times' The Daily and Ira Glass' This American Life," according to Teen Vogue. The Financial Times said, "Too often young people's views are overlooked owing to their low rates of political participation, but this shift could leave ripples for generations to come"

Rocky relationships

The stark divide in political affiliation and social issues can lead to relationship problems. South Korea has one of the starkest divides in ideologies between genders. In the country, the "marriage rate has plummeted, and birth rate has fallen precipitously, dropping to 0.78 births per woman in 2022, the lowest of any country in the world," the Financial Times said. The growing discrepancy in the U.S. could lead the country down a similar path. "Politics is now far more pertinent to the kind of practical relationship concerns that determine whether a relationship is viable," The Atlantic said, "even for couples who love each other deeply." 

Nationwide abortion restrictions have also put a strain on relationships and people's desire for marriage. "Being in a relationship with someone who thinks a woman should not be able to decide whether to end a pregnancy is, for women in some states, a newly risky proposition," said The Atlantic. "Social conservatives have also set their sights on outlawing no-fault divorce, which would make ending marriages even more difficult, and potentially trap people in abusive and dangerous relationships." Overall, women are less likely to partner with men whose values differ from theirs, especially with women's issues being a primary driver in today's politics. "Unlike differences of opinion on tax rates or land use, these disagreements can't be reduced to mere partisan intolerance, because they shape the answers to basic questions about how a relationship or a household works."

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